Leonard Cohen's Prophecy of the Phil Spector/Lana Clarkson Incident: 'Death of a Ladies' Man' | West Coast Sound | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Leonard Cohen's Prophecy of the Phil Spector/Lana Clarkson Incident: 'Death of a Ladies' Man'

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Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 6:06 AM

Note: for best results, listen to the above song while you read this.

As we prepared for this April's "Leonard Cohen Week," which commences this evening at the Nokia Theater, continues there tomorrow night, and concludes with next Friday's twilight performance at Coachella, one of Leonard Cohen's most notorious and fascinating albums, Death of a Ladies' Man, has been on our mind.

Much has been written about Cohen and his classic songs over the years, but little of it has been dedicated to the stormy and failed 1977 collaboration the singer, songwriter and poet had with producer/murder defendant convicted murderer Phil Spector. The push/pull between the two strongheaded auteurs has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. Cohen and Spector's method of teamwork reportedly involved an armed and volatile Spector locking lyricist Cohen out of the studio while the producer crafted the music.

click to enlarge Cohen looking sharp with the cigarette extendo-filter
  • Cohen looking sharp with the cigarette extendo-filter

The result, Death of a Ladies' Man, is a wonderfully uneven eight-song album which, in hindsight, could be seen as a portent re: the death of Lana Clarkson. Song titles include: "True Love Leaves No Traces," "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On" and "Fingerprints," all key themes in the Spector murder trial. In fact, had the producer paid closer attention to Cohen's refrain for "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On," Spector may have avoided a whole heap of trouble. Sings Cohen (with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg on backing vocals): "Don't go home with your hard-on/It will only drive you insane/You can't shake it (or break it) with your Motown/You can't melt it down in the rain."

The more we dug, the more evidence revealed itself that maybe this Cohen guy was on to something, like maybe he had some sort of premonition of Phil Spector's travails. Herewith, lyrical tidbits that, compiled below, are somewhat revealing. If it's true, as William Burroughs submitted, that "if you cut into the present, the future leaks out," then Leonard Cohen's lyrics on Death of a Ladies' Man can be seen as an impressive bit of fortune telling.

click to enlarge Trouble (left) and Tragedy
  • Trouble (left) and Tragedy

Track listing, Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies' Man:

1. "True Love Leaves No Traces" - 4:26

2. "Iodine" - 5:03

3. "Paper Thin Hotel" - 5:42

4. "Memories" - 5:59

5. "I Left a Woman Waiting" - 3:28

6. "Don't Go Home with Your Hard-On" - 5:36

7. "Fingerprints" - 2:58

8. "Death of a Ladies Man" - 9:19

Item one. Spector meets Clarkson at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, where she is a waitress:

I walked up to the tallest and the blondest girl

I said, Look, you don't know me now but very soon you will

So won't you let me see

I said "won't you let me see"

I said "won't you let me see

Your naked body?"

from "Memories"

He invites her over to his place after she gets off work. She agrees:

She took his much admired oriental frame of mind

and the heart-of-darkness alibi his money hides behind

She took his blonde madonna and his monastery wine --

"This mental space is occupied and everything is mine."

from "Memories"

They arrive at Spector's Alhambra mansion. They get to know each other. He, a producer past his creative prime; she, an actress who had to work House of Blues to pay the rent:

She said, I see your eyes are dead

What happened to you, lover?

What happened to you, my lover?

What happened to you, lover?

What happened to you?

And since she spoke the truth to me

I tried to answer truthfully

Whatever happened to my eyes

Happened to your beauty

from "I Left a Woman Waiting"

Spector, a legendary lady's man, and strong with manly desire, admires the blond Clarkson; she, however, is not so sure. This is understandably frustrating to the producer:

Ah but don't go home with your hard-on

It will only drive you insane

You can't shake it (or break it) with your Motown

You can't melt it down in the rain

from "Don't Go Home with Your Hard On"

click to enlarge Fingerprints
  • Fingerprints

Enter a gun. Who knows how it got there? An alleged struggle.

Your beauty on my bruise like iodine

I asked you if a man could be forgiven

And though I failed at love, was this a crime?

You said, Don't worry, don't worry, darling

You said, Don't worry, don't you worry, darling

There are many ways a man can serve his time

from "Iodine"

Serve time? What are you talking about serving time? A gunshot. Who pulled the trigger? Where is the evidence? Why aren't Spector's prints on the gun?

I called my fingerprints all night

But they don't seem to care

The last time that I saw them

They were leafing through your hair

Fingerprints, fingerprints

Where are you now my fingerprints?

from "Fingerprints"

Someone call an ambulance. There's been an incident at the Spector mansion. Too late. It's over.

And many nights endure

Without a moon or star

So we will endure

When one is gone and far

from "True Love Leaves No Traces."

True love may not leave traces, but sometimes history does.

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